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Logan’s Favorite Comics of 2020

2020 definitely felt like a year where I embraced comics in all their different formats and genres from the convenient, satisfying graphic novella to the series of loosely connected and curated one shots and even the door stopper of an omnibus/hardcover or that charming webcomic that comes out one or twice a week on Instagram. This was partially due to the Covid-19 pandemic that shut down comics’ traditional direct market for a bit so I started reviewing webcomics, trade paperbacks, graphic novels and nonfiction even after this supply chain re-opened. I also co-hosted and edited two seasons of a podcast about indie comics where we basically read either a trade every week for discussion, and that definitely meant spending more time with that format. However, floppy fans should still be happy because I do have a traditional ongoing series on my list as well as some minis.

Without further ado, here are my favorite comics of 2020.

Marvels Snapshots: X-Men #1 – But Why Tho? A Geek Community

10. Marvels Snapshots (Marvel)

Curated by original Marvels writer Kurt Busiek and with cover art by original Marvels artist Alex Ross, Marvels Snapshots collects seven perspectives on on the “major” events of the Marvel Universe from the perspectives of ordinary people from The Golden Age of the 1940s to 2006’s Civil War. It’s cool to get a more character-driven and human POV on the ol’ corporate IP toy box from Alan Brennert and Jerry Ordway exploring Namor the Submariner’s PTSD to Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, and Benjamin Dewey showing the real reason behind Johnny Storm’s airhead celebrity act. There’s also Mark Russell and Ramon Perez’s take on the classic Captain America “Madbomb” storyline, Barbara Kesel’s and Staz Johnson’s sweet, Bronze Age-era romance between two first responders as the Avengers battle a threat against the city, and Saladin Ahmed and Ryan Kelly add nuance to the superhuman Civil War by showing how the Registration Act affects a Cape-Killer agent as well as a young elemental protector of Toledo, Ohio, who just wants to help his community and do things like purify water. However, the main reason Marvels Snapshots made my “favorite” list was Jay Edidin and Tom Reilly‘s character-defining work showing the pre-X-Men life of Cyclops as he struggles with orphan life, is inspired by heroes like Reed Richards, and lays the groundwork for the strategist, leader, and even revolutionary that appears in later comics.

9. Fangs (Tapas)

Fangs is cartoonist Sarah Andersen’s entry into the Gothic romance genre and was a light, funny, and occasionally sexy series that got me through a difficult year. Simply put, it follows the relationship of a vampire named Elsie and a werewolf named Jimmy, both how they met and their life together. Andersen plays with vampire and werewolf fiction tropes and sets up humorous situations like a date night featuring a bloody rare steak and a glass of blood instead of wine, Jimmy having an unspoken animosity against mail carriers, and just generally working around things like lycanthropy every 28 days and an aversion to sunlight. As well as being hilarious and cute, Fangs shows Sarah Andersen leveling up as an artist as she works with deep blacks, different eye shapes and textures, and more detailed backgrounds to match the tone of her story while not skimping on the relatable content that made Sarah’s Scribbles an online phenomenon.

8. Heavy #1-3 (Vault)

I really got into Vault Comics this year. (I retroactively make These Savage Shores my favorite comic of 2019.) As far as prose, I mainly read SF, and Vault nicely fills that niche in the comics landscape and features talented, idiosyncratic creative teams. Heavy is no exception as Max Bemis, Eryk Donovan, and Cris Peter tell the story of Bill, who was gunned down by some mobsters, and now is separated from his wife in a place called “The Wait” where he has to set right enough multiversal wrongs via violence to be reunited with her in Heaven. This series is a glorious grab bag of hyperviolence, psychological examinations of toxic masculinity, and moral philosophy. Heavy also has a filthy and non-heteronormative sense of humor. Donovan and Peter bring a high level of chaotic energy to the book’s visuals and are game for both tenderhearted flashbacks as well as brawls with literal cum monsters. In addition to all this, Bemis and Donovan aren’t afraid to play with and deconstruct their series’ premise, which is what makes Heavy my ongoing monthly comic.

Amazon.com: Maids eBook: Skelly, Katie, Skelly, Katie: Kindle Store

7. Maids (Fantagraphics)

Writer/artist Katie Skelly puts her own spin on the true crime genre in Maids, a highly stylized account of Christine and Lea Papin murdering their employers in France during the 1930s. Skelly’s linework and eye popping colors expertly convey the trauma and isolation that the Papins go through as they are at the beck and call of the family they work almost 24/7. Flashbacks add depth and context to Christine and Lea’s characters and provide fuel to the fire of the class warfare that they end up engaging in. Skelly’s simple, yet iconic approach character design really allowed me to connect with the Papins and empathize with them during the build-up from a new job to murder and mayhem. Maids is truly a showcase for a gifted cartoonist and not just a summary of historical events.

6. Grind Like A Girl (Gumroad/Instagram)

In her webcomic Grind Like A Girl, cartoonist Veronica Casson tells the story of growing up trans in 1990s New Jersey. The memoir recently came to a beautiful conclusion with Casson showing her first forays into New York, meeting other trans women, and finding a sense of community with them that was almost the polar opposite of her experiences in high school. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the evolution of Veronica Casson’s art style during different periods of her life from an almost Peanuts vibe for her childhood to using more flowing lines, bright colors, and ambitious panel layouts as an older teen and finally an adult. She also does a good job using the Instagram platform to give readers a true “guided view” experience and point out certain details before putting it all together in a single page so one can appreciate the comic at both a macro/micro levels. All in all, Grind Like A Girl is a personal and stylish coming of age memoir from Veronica Casson, and I look forward to seeing more of her work.

5. Papaya Salad (Dark Horse)

Thai/Italian cartoonist Elisa Macellari tells an unconventional World War II story in Papaya Salad, a recently translated history comic about her great uncle Sompong, who just wanted to see the world. However, he ended up serving with the Thai diplomatic corps in Italy, Germany, and Austria during World War II. Macellari uses a recipe for her great uncle’s favorite dish, papaya salad, to structure the comic, and her work has a warm, dreamlike quality to go with the reality of the places that Sampong visits and works at. Also, it’s very refreshing to get a non-American or British perspective on this time in history as Sampong grapples with the shifting status of Thailand during the war as well as the racism of American soldiers, who celebrate the atomic bomb and lump him and his colleagues with the Japanese officers, and are not shown in a very positive light. However, deep down, Papaya Salad is a love story filled with small human moments that make life worth living, like appetizing meals, jokes during dark times, and faith in something beyond ourselves. It’s a real showcase of the comics medium’s ability to tell stories from a unique point of view.

4. Pulp (Image)

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (with colorist Jacob Phillips) are two creators whose work has graced my “favorite comics” list many times. And this time they really outdid themselves with the graphic novella Pulp about the final days of Max Winters, a gunslinger-turned-Western dime novelist. It’s a character study peppered with flashbacks as Phillips and Phillips use changes in body posture and color palette to show Max getting older while his passion for resisting those who would exploit others is still intact. Basically, he can shoot and rob fascists just like he shot and robbed cattle barons back in the day. Brubaker and Phillips understand that genre fiction doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is informed by the historical context around it, which is what makes Pulp such a compelling read. If you like your explorations of the banality of evil and creeping specter of fascism with heists, gun battles, and plenty of introspection, then this is the comic for you.

3. My Riot (Oni Press)

Music is my next favorite interest after comics so My Riot was an easy pick for my favorite comics list. The book is a coming of age story filtered through 1990s riot girl music from writer Rick Spears and artist Emmett Helen. It follows the life of Valerie, who goes from doing ballet and living a fairly conservative suburban life to being the frontwoman and songwriter for a cult riot girl band. Much of this transformation happens through Helen’s art and colors as his palette comes to life just as Valerie does when she successfully calls out some audience members/her boyfriend for being sexist and patronizing. The comic itself also takes on a much more DIY quality with its layouts and storytelling design as well as how the characters look and act. My Riot is about the power of music to find one’s identify and true self and build a community like The Proper Ladies do throughout the book. Valerie’s arc is definitely empowering and relatable for any queer kid, who was forced to conform to way of life and thinking that wasn’t their own.

2. Getting It Together #1-3 (Image)

I’ll let you in on a little secret: slice of life is my all-time favorite comic book genre. So, I was overjoyed when writers Sina Grace and Omar Spahi, artist Jenny D. Fine, and colorist Mx. Struble announced that they were doing a monthly slice of life comic about a brother, sister, and their best friend/ex-boyfriend (respectively) set in San Francisco that also touched on the gay and indie music scene. And Getting It Together definitely has lifted up to my pre-release hype as Grace and Spahi have fleshed out a complex web of relationships and drama with gorgeous and occasionally hilarious art by Fine and Struble. There are gay and bisexual characters all over the book with different personalities and approaches to life, dating, and relationships, which is refreshing too. Grace, Spahi, and Fine also take some time away from the drama to let us know about the ensemble cast’s passions and struggles like indie musician Lauren’s lifelong love for songwriting even if her band has a joke name (Nipslip), or her ex-boyfriend Sam’s issues with mental health. I would definitely love to spend more than four issues with these folks.

1. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott (Avery Hill)

My favorite comic of 2020 was The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott , a debut graphic novel by cartoonist Zoe Thorogood. The premise of the comic is that Billie is an artist who is going blind in two weeks, and she must come up with some paintings for her debut gallery show during that time period. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott boasts an adorably idiosyncratic cast of characters that Thorogood lovingly brings to life with warm visuals and naturalistic dialogue as Billie goes from making art alone in her room to making connections with the people around her, especially Rachel, a passionate folk punk musician. The book also acts as a powerful advocate for the inspirational quality of art and the act of creation. Zoe Thorogood even creates “art within the art” and concludes the story with the different portraits that Billie painted throughout her travels. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott was the hopeful comic that I needed in a dark year and one I will cherish for quite some time as I ooh and aah over Thorogood’s skill with everything from drawing different hair styles to crafting horrific dream sequences featuring eyeballs.

Review: Getting It Together #3

Getting It Together #3

Sina Grace, Omar Spahi, Jenny D. Fine, and Mx. Struble continue to escalate the storyline, definitely balance the arc of an ensemble of characters, and generally continue to create that premium queer, slice of life goodness in Getting It Together #3. This issue is centered around a big set piece, which is protagonist Lauren’s band Nipslip opening for Wish Me Luxembourg. It also deals with the fallout of the friend breakup between Sam, who is Lauren’s ex, and Jack, who is Lauren’s brother and their various coping mechanisms. There’s lots of drama (and drug use), but there’s also visual flair and creativity from Fine and Struble while Grace and Spahi continue to give readers more insight into this cast of characters.

Grace, Spahi, Fine, and Struble goes into fun, daily webcomic mode to show how Lauren, Sam, and Jack deal with the loss of folks they confide in. Sam’s page is structured like a zine-meets-choose your own adventure that all ends up in him on the couch playing video games as a coping mechanism for his depression, which is explored by Sina Grace, Omar Spahi, and artist Erika Schnatz in this issue’s one page backup story. Jack’s coping mechanism is mindlessly swiping through Tinder, which is definitely relatable to me, especially during the isolation of the pandemic. Like he says in the captions, there really is something “self-soothing” to the swiping motion whether that’s on a dating app or something else like Tik Tok. Finally, Lauren’s coping mechanism is basically straight to business as Fine and Struble draw a series of text messages she has with her bandmate Annie, who made out with Sam last issue. This led to drama in both her personal and creative life, and tonight’s gig has a “now or never” feel as Nipslip’s performance will determine whether they continue as a band, or Lauren goes solo.

I definitely think it’s the latter as they round out the show with Lauren performing a solo song that he wrote years ago in a Sina Grace-drawn flashback. This combined with a full page of Wish Me Luxembourg’s frontwoman Mai talking about how such an inspiration Lauren was to her really is a bit too much too handle. Thankfully, Sam’s friend Tim is there with molly, and Jenny D. Fine and Mx. Struble turn in a drug trip that’s visually fun and also reveals a lot about the characters’ feelings for each other. In his mopey period, Jack has stumbled into a poly relationship with his ex and another man that on a surface seems like good, cuddly fun, but it actually makes him feel alone. Fine definitely shows this with her art with an earlier inset panel showing how uneasy Jack is at the show, and later on, she uses a liquid horror art style on the other two guys to show that this relationship isn’t a free “lots of love” poly situation, but more like a “succubi” situation as Sam and Tim call it.

Even though they barely interact and the gay world is a mystery to him, Sam still looks out for Jack by basically stage a drug-fueled intervention, and hopefully, they can patch things up in the end. Jack is definitely on the cusp of an epiphany by the final chaotically drawn and colored Fine and Struble page. Just like the drug trip sequences have a super charged energy, they heighten the connections and tension between characters in Getting It Together #3. The complete and utter Fleetwood Mac-esque sloppiness of Nipslip is definitely on display with Lauren making a pass at Mai and being high as hell. (Spahi and Grace’s dialogue for this sequence is hilarious.) Then, Mai ends up hooking with Ashton, who slept with Lauren in the first issue and basically kickstarted the plot of this comic when her boyfriend Sam got jealous even though they were in an open relationship. Jenny D. Fine and Mx. Struble’s art is messy and beautiful just like the connections between these talented and deeply flawed folks.

Getting It Together‘s main focus is on the friendship and emotions between Lauren, Jack, and Sam with some ongoing subplots like Nipslip, Jack’s bad taste in men, and Sam’s depression. However, in this issue, Sina Grace and Omar Spahi provide some insightful, non-judgmental, and at times, humorous commentary on the complex nature of poly relationships through the wisdom of drug dispensing, closet Jubilee cosplayer Tim. Even if you’re a “secondary partner”, you should never feel that way, and poly relationships should be beneficial for everyone. The deal that Jack has with his ex-boyfriend and his ex’s current partner isn’t that at all, and Grace, Spahi, and Fine illustrate this through his body language as well as Tim’s “tough love” speech at the end. I might be biased because we have similar taste in libations (vodka crans, Jameson, PBR), but he adds some wisdom, comedy, and loads of fun to the issue as well as playing the plot-necessary role of go-between for Sam and Jack.

Getting It Together #3 continues the dramatic escalation of the previous issues while providing insight into Lauren’s creative drive, Jack’s relationship issues, and Sam’s mental health. Sina Grace and Omar Spahi’s writing continues to be sharp as ever, and they hit that drama/comedy sweet spot. Jenny D. Fine and Mx. Struble continue to provide expressive, DIY style visuals while experimenting with layouts and finally descending into utter madness and fluidity during the drug trip sequence. Struble adds that extra bit of emotion to the musical performances in Getting It Together #3, which was a skill that they demonstrated in on their previous work with Grace on Lil Depressed Boy even if this book doesn’t have any AJJ or Childish Gambino cameos.

Story: Sina Grace and Omar Spahi 
Art: Jenny D. Fine and Sina Grace
Colors: Mx. Struble Letters: Sean Konot
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

Comics Deserve Better Episode 16: 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank by Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss, and Thomas Mauer

On this episode of Comics Deserve Better, Brian and Logan geek out about the darkly comedic, crime comic 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank by Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss, and Thomas Mauer.

They break down the cast of annoying, yet endearing middle-school-aged characters, their favorite sequences, and the connections that this Black Mask Studios masterpiece has to other works of pop culture. Brian and Logan also discuss the latest indie comics news, including Graham Coxon‘s comic Superstate from Z2, the announcement of Vault‘s queer monster love story Hollow Heart and Geoff Johns and Gary Frank‘s creator-owned series Geiger, and a new ordering format from Scout Comics. They also talk about the upcoming Black Hammer: Visions and their dream creators on the miniseries. Other comics mentioned on the show are We Only Find Them When They’re Dead, Getting It Together, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, and 12 Reasons to Die. (Episode art by Tyler Boss)

Comics Deserve Better Episode 11: Interview with Zoe Thorogood (The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott)

After a short hiatus, Comics Deserve Better is back and ready to cover your favorite indie comics! In this episode, Brian and Logan interview talented writer/artist Zoe Thorogood about her debut graphic novel, The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott. They chat about everything from color palettes and character designs to the power of art to inspire and even video games! Later, Darci joins the fun to talk about the indie comics Bang!, The Citric Arc, Getting It Together, We Live, Stillwater, and The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem.

(Episode art by Zoe Thorogood.)

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Snake Eyes: Dead Game #2

Wednesdays (and now Tuesdays) are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

Each week our contributors choose what they can’t wait to read this week or just sounds interesting. In other words, this is what we’re looking forward to and think you should be taking a look at!

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this week.

American Ronin #1 (AWA Studios) – Corporations engage in a silent war for global domination using highly-skilled, technologically-enhanced operatives to wage war. What happens when one of those operatives breaks free of the control?

American Vampire 1976 #1 (DC Comics/DC Black Label) – The fantastic series is back for another ride as Skinner Sweet must help with a heist to help stop a true evil.

Batman #100 (DC Comics) – “Joker War” wraps up with this issue and it’s a hell of a finale.

Champions #1 (Marvel) – The first issue was solid and plants the flag as to what this latest volume of Champions is all about. Read our review.

Getting It Together #1 (Image Comics) – A family/friend drama about relationships and friendship. There’s something intriguing about this dramedy from Sina Grace, Omar Spahi, and MX Struble.

Hollywood Trash #1 (Mad Cave Studios) – A top entertainment mogul puts a hit on two local garbage men who have stolen from him. It’s one epic day of sword fights, forest fires, and giant mechs!

Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology #1 (Dark Horse) – Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell, Mike Mignola, and Jerry Ordway is enough to sell us on this series that breathes “new life into action Norse stories.”

Penultiman #1 (AHOY Studios) – The Next-To-Last-Stage In Human Evolution, is the greatest, best-looking, and most admired super-hero in the world! So how can he stop hating himself? His android understudy, Antepenultiman, thinks he knows the answer!

Snake Eyes: Deadgame #2 (IDW Publishing) – The first issue was solid as Rob Liefeld does his thing with the beloved G.I. Joe character. It exceeded our expectations and we’re hoping the second issue does the same.

Transformers/Back to the Future #1 (IDW Publishing) – The two classic properties crossing over might seem silly but IDW has been knocking it out of the park with these sort of stories these past few years. We love both Transformers and Back to the Future, so we’re in.

The Walking Dead Deluxe #1 (Image Comics/Skybound) – If you’ve never read the modern classic series, here’s your chance. Colored for the first time, it’ll be interesting to see how the horror/zombie series might be different in color compared to its original black and white.

We Only Find Them When They’re Dead #2 (BOOM! Studios) – This is basically Moby Dick with space gods and the art is amazing.

Getting it Together Gets a “Sex and the City” Variant from Kevin Wada

Image Comics has revealed a cheeky, fashion forward homage variant for Getting It Together #1 by Omar Spahi and Sina Grace, with art by Jenny D. Fine, colors by Mx. Struble, and letters by Sean Konot, showcasing artwork by Kevin Wada. This Getting It Together #1 variant cover is an homage to the iconic Sex and the City opening.

This nod to the famous scene wherein Carrie gets splashed on an NYC street corner by a passing bus, perfectly connects the “found family” theme the beloved HBO franchise was known for with the Getting It Together vibe. This new series follows a group of 20-something friends and the interpersonal drama they encounter living in the City (in this case, the Bay Area). 

The Getting It Together #1 Kevin Wada variant sits alongside the similar Getting It Together #1 cover homage, which reimagines the opening credits scene from Friends.

Getting It Together #1 Cover A by Fine (Diamond Code AUG200047) and Getting It Together #1 Cover B by Wada (Diamond Code JUL209564) will be available at comic book shops on Wednesday, October 7.

Getting It Together #1 Kevin Wada variant

Around the Tubes

Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious #1

It’s the first new comic book day of the week! What are you all looking to get? What are you excited for? Sound off in the comments below! While you decide on that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Salon – “We in America have actual fascists marching in the streets”: Ed Brubaker on releasing art right now – Well worth the read.

Sequart Organization – Panther’s Range: The History of the Black Panther Prior to Christopher Priest – For those that want to learn about the character.

Kotaku – New Zealand’s Prime Minister Made A Very Wholesome Appearance On Twitch – Expect a lot more campaigning on Twitch in the coming years.

Reviews

Flickering Myth – Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious #1
CBR – Getting It Together #1
The Beat – Magician A

Friends are Getting It Together this June in a New Series from Image

Bestselling writer Sina Grace and popular producer/host and writer Omar Spahi team up with debut comics artist and lauded illustrator Jenny D. Fine, colorist Mx. Struble, and letterer Sean Konot to co-create the upcoming series Getting It Together. It will launch from Image Comics this June.

A fresh, updated spin on twenty-something, found-family dramedies like FriendsGetting It Together follows best friends Sam and Jack. Sam is dating Lauren—Jack’s indie rocker sister and roommate—and when Sam and Lauren open up their long-term relationship, skyrocketing tensions send social shockwaves through their friend group and the entire Bay Area. And Jack, caught in the middle of it all, may be forced to take sides in a conflict he never wanted to be a part of. Life gets pretty messy when you’re in your ’20s and your friends are your family.

Getting It Together #1 will be available at comic book shops on Wednesday, June 10.

Getting It Together #1